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Judicial Watch, Inc. is a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation, which promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law.

Judicial Watch, Inc. is a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation, which promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law.

Because no one
is above the law!


Tom Fitton's Judicial Watch Weekly Update

Is Obama Protecting Pelosi?

July 24, 2009

From the Desk of Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton:

JW Files Lawsuit against CIA for Documents on Terrorist Interrogation Briefings of Speaker Pelosi and Congress

As you may recall, last week I told you that Judicial Watch had filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to obtain records from the Office of former Vice President Cheney related to CIA interrogation techniques.

This week, we did it again.

This time, however, we’re trying to get our hands on documents related to any congressional briefings on "enhanced interrogation techniques," especially any CIA briefings involving House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and/or her staff. Judicial Watch filed its original FOIA request with the CIA on May 15. Here’s what we’re after:

  1. Records detailing dates when the CIA briefed congressional leaders (to include, but not limited to Rep. Nancy Pelosi and/or her aide, Michael Sheehy) on matters relating to "enhanced interrogation techniques" and/or "harsh interrogation techniques" and suspected and/or known terrorists…
  2. Briefing materials presented to Rep. Nancy Pelosi and/or her aide, Michael Sheehy, relating to "enhanced interrogation techniques" and/or "harsh interrogation techniques" and suspected and/or known terrorists.
  3. Records detailing the names of all Members of Congress (and/or Congressional Aides) briefed on "enhanced interrogation techniques" and/or "harsh interrogation techniques" and suspected and/or known terrorists.
  4. Records and briefing materials from a reported September 4, 2002, briefing of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (and/or her aide Michael Sheehy) concerning waterboarding detainees.
  5. Records detailing all instances when the CIA has provided briefings to Members of Congress under the provisions of the National Security Act from September 11, 2001, to present.

On June 23, the CIA notified Judicial Watch that it would not be able to respond to the FOIA request within the statutory mandated 20 working days but failed to indicate when a response would be forthcoming. Moreover, the CIA noted in its letter: "You have a right to consider our honest appraisal as a denial of your request and you may appeal…A more practical approach would permit us to continue processing your request and to respond to you as soon as we can."

We appreciate the guidance from officials at the CIA. But after filing FOIA requests over the last 15+ years we know what the government means when it says "as soon as we can." As you can tell, we opted for a different course, filing a lawsuit instead.

This Judicial Watch investigation is the result of a controversy that erupted earlier this year related to Speaker Pelosi.

As you may recall, in April 2009, Speaker Pelosi admitted she was briefed on the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques," including waterboarding, but was not aware they had already been used. The CIA contradicted Pelosi’s claim, pointing to a briefing they held with the speaker on September 4, 2002, and a subsequent briefing to her top staffer. We filed our FOIA request to get to the truth in the matter.

I suspect the Obama administration is stonewalling the release of these documents to protect Speaker Pelosi from further embarrassment. Once again, it appears Obama’s promises of transparency were nothing more than empty rhetoric.

I’ll have more on this and our other FOIA lawsuit against the CIA as news develops…

Judge Sotomayor Dissembles on International Law?

Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court is set to be considered by the full United States Senate by August 7. Developments this week include news that her nomination is opposed by the NRA, but is supported by "moderate" Republicans like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

As significant, but not widely covered by the mainstream media was Judge Sotomayor’s latest flip-flop related to the use of foreign law in the U.S. court system.

During her confirmation hearing, Judge Sotomayor was asked specifically about this issue. And here is what she said: "I will not use foreign law to interpret the Constitution or American statutes. I will use American law, constitutional law to interpret those laws, except in the situations where American law directs a court."

Sounds like a good answer. And it was. The only problem is that Judge Sotomayor’s allegiance to this principled position lasted only as long as the hearing.

Here’s what she said after the hearing in her written responses to questions from Senator Jeff Sessions, Ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee: "In limited circumstances, decisions of foreign courts can be a source of ideas informing our understanding of our own constitutional rights…"

Does that sound like back-pedaling to you?

Of course, we have more to go on than these two statements. We also have a speech Judge Sotomayor gave on April 28, 2009, to the ACLU of Puerto Rico, where she said:

[T]o suggest to anyone that you can outlaw the use of foreign or international law is a sentiment that’s based on a fundamental misunderstanding. What you would be asking American judges to do is to close their minds to good ideas—to some good ideas…[I]deas are ideas, and whatever their source, whether they come from foreign law or international law…or any other place, if the idea has validity, if it persuades you—si te compense [Spanish for "If it persuades you"]—then you are going to adopt its reasoning.

So to sum: Before and after the hearing, Judge Sotomayor expressed support for the use of foreign law by U.S. judges. During the hearing, when the cameras were rolling, she categorically rejected the use of foreign law. I think her true position is obvious and it’s the wrong one. In a recent op-ed, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the leading Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, summed up the dangers of judges misusing foreign law to justify their decisions:

  • Enormous confusion about the current state of our laws because their meaning would be found not in reading the text but in divining world opinion.
  • Blurring of domestic and foreign law and the diminishment of American sovereignty.
  • Erosion of the moral authority of our laws because they would no longer be grounded firmly in the Constitution and the democratic process.
  • A severe weakening of our Constitution because judges would no longer be bound to its actual words or meaning.

(Justices Scalia and Breyer had an interesting debate on this topic a few years ago. For the transcript, click here.)

Whether it be for her activist views on the foreign law and race relations, or for her repeated attacks on the impartiality of the judiciary — Judge Sotomayor should not be elevated to the Supreme Court. I repeat my request to you: Please contact your Senator today and let him or her know your feelings on the Sotomayor nomination. Time is short and the stakes could not be any higher. There are many Republicans – and maybe a few Democrats – who can still be swayed by a strong public response. The Capitol Hill switchboard is 202-224-3121.

Special Inspector General: TARP Massive, Corrupt and Lacks Transparency

The Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) released its quarterly report to Congress this week on the federal government’s massive TARP program. And it isn’t pretty. Among the conclusions of the report: TARP is far more massive than originally planned. The program is rife with corruption. And the Obama Treasury Department has violated its pledge of transparency and refuses to require TARP fund recipients to report how the funds are being used.

Here are a few excerpts from the report, which can be read in its entirety here:

  • TARP, as originally envisioned in the fall of 2008, would have involved the purchase, management, and sale of up to $700 billion of "toxic" assets, primarily troubled mortgages and mortgage-backed securities ("MBS"). That framework was soon shelved, however, and TARP funds are being used, or have been announced to be used, in connection with 12 separate programs that…involve a total (including TARP funds, loans and guarantees from other agencies, and private money) that could reach nearly $3 trillion." The report goes on to note that TARP is just a small part of the federal government’s overall scheme to bailout the financial system, valued by SIGTARP at $23.7 trillion.
  • Through June 30, 2009, SIGTARP has 35 ongoing criminal and civil investigations. These investigations include complex issues concerning suspected accounting fraud, securities fraud, insider trading, mortgage servicer misconduct, mortgage fraud, public corruption, false statements, and tax investigations.
  • Although Treasury has taken some steps towards improving transparency in TARP programs, it has repeatedly failed to adopt recommendations that SIGTARP believes are essential to providing basic transparency and fulfilling Treasury’s stated commitment to implement TARP "with the highest degree of accountability and transparency possible."
  • Unfortunately, in rejecting SIGTARP’s basic transparency recommendations, TARP has become a program in which taxpayers (i) are not being told what most of the TARP recipients are doing with their money, (ii) have still not been told how much their substantial investments are worth, and (iii) will not be told the full details of how their money is being invested. In SIGTARP’s view, the very credibility of TARP (and thus in large measure its chance of success) depends on whether Treasury will commit, in deed as in word, to operate TARP with the highest degree of transparency possible.

Pretty tough stuff. But did anyone actually believe this was going to go down any differently? Did we really expect the government to keep the scope of the program modest, or to be able to manage the massive amount of corruption that always seems to accompany big government programs? Did we expect Treasury to care a whit about the American taxpayer and their right to know what is being done with their hard-earned money?

I certainly didn’t.

The government’s massive bailout of our financial institutions does not lead to corruption. It is corruption. Judicial Watch has said this from the beginning. The federal government has no business meddling in the private sector in this overwhelming fashion.

And even Democrats in Congress were critical of the Obama Treasury Department. In hearings this week with TARP Inspector General Neil Barofsky concerning his report, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Edolphus Towns (D-NY) said, "The taxpayers now have a $700 billion spending program that’s being run under the philosophy of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’"

Judicial Watch is committed to securing as much transparency as possible with respect to the government’s bailout scheme. We’ve already uncovered some important documents related to the government’s mob-style "deal" made with the nation’s banks. Our investigation of "bailout nation" is perhaps the most comprehensive in Judicial Watch’s 15-year history – we have at least 36 pending Freedom of Information Act requests on the $24 trillion government takeover of our nation’s economy.

Until next week…

Tom Fitton

Judicial Watch is a non-partisan, educational foundation organized under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue code. Judicial Watch is dedicated to fighting government and judicial corruption and promoting a return to ethics and morality in our nation’s public life. To make a tax-deductible contribution in support of our efforts, click here.


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